Wright-Patt celebrates Native American Heritage Month

  • Published
  • By Daniel Peterson
  • 88th Air Base Wing Public Affairs

WRIGHT-PATTERSON AIR FORCE BASE, Ohio -- With November recognized as Native American Heritage Month, the Indigenous Nations Equality Team hosted a Cultural Celebration and Education event at the Wright-Patterson USO Center on Nov. 14. 

INET is an all-volunteer organization that falls under the Department of the Air Force’s Office of Diversity and Inclusion and one of its barrier analysis working groups. Its mission is to advocate for American Indian and Alaska Native personnel within the Air Force through the changing of policies, recruitment and community outreach. 

Jacqueline Melcher, the 88th Civil Engineer Group’s Installation Management Division chief, is a member of South Dakota’s Oglala Lakota Sioux Tribe and INET co-lead. She and her team organized the event to celebrate Native American culture as well as enlighten fellow Airmen.

“It’s a way for us to educate, spread awareness and celebrate the rich culture through Indigenous artistry, song and cuisine,” Melcher said. “History books are riddled with inaccuracies and have not always relayed the truth about Native Americans and Alaska Native Tribes or their interactions with the government. We educate in a positive way to encourage a better understanding of the cultural heritage and how it contributes to the DAF and our mission. 

“There are 574 federally recognized tribes. For context, there are only 195 countries in the world. The diversity of so many tribes is why our mission to educate and inform is that much more important.”  

Ohio was once home to six of those Native American tribes, but today, there are no longer reservations nearby as they were relocated from the state. 

“A lot of the ancestral tribes that used to be here were pushed west because of Western expansion. So, people who live on the Eastern Seaboard have to travel hundreds of miles to visit a reservation or tribal communities that were once close by,” Melcher said. “That’s what INET is trying to bring back to Wright-Patt, the DAF and community partners.” 


The event saw creative performances, such as interpretive hoop dances and jingle dress dancers, as well as cultural cuisine tastings of blue corn mush, wojapi (berry sauce), frybread and buffalo stew.  

Guest speakers from several WPAFB organizations also briefed attendees on their respective tribes, heritage and history. 

Among them was Dennis D’Angelo, Air Force Life Cycle Management Center Senior Executive Service executive director and INET co-champion, who stressed the importance of diversity and inclusion events. 

“As a leader, you need to know everything about your people, regardless of who they may be or where they may have come from,” he said. “This is an opportunity to share in that and learn.” 

With events like this, INET leaders said they hope to create a community of encouragement, belonging, and support while sharing and preserving their cultural traditions with everybody. 

For more information on INET or future events, contact saf.di_dafbawg.inet_workflow@us.af.mil